Wireless Carriers Oppose Anti-Theft Feature for Smartphones

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Samsung developed a 'kill switch' feature for its smartphones and tablets, but U.S. wireless providers aren't impressed. Here's why.

Samsung recently developed a “kill switch” that allows users to disable their smartphones and tablets remotely if they are lost or stolen.

The kill switch would serve as a deterrent to thieves because the mobile devices would be worthless once they’re disabled, and smartphone users would feel more secure, proponents say. About 1.6 million smartphones were stolen in the U.S. in 2012, according to Consumer Reports.

But there’s a problem.

Wireless companies in the U.S. won’t sell Samsung devices that have the kill switch, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. It says:

For carriers, the technology would add an enormous customer-service burden. Troubleshooting for mobile devices often falls to the wireless stores where customers bought them, and setting up a kill switch — or reactivating a phone that’s been deactivated by mistake — can be a challenge for lay users and time-consuming for staffers.

It also says that wireless carriers profit from the status quo through smartphone insurance sales and activation fees.

The carriers say they’re working on other ways to deal with theft, like creating a phone-tracking database and cooperating with investigations.

Businessweek notes that Apple’s latest mobile operating system comes with an activation lock that can be enabled remotely if a phone is lost or stolen. Because Apple handles its own customer service, providers don’t have to deal with it, the article said.

What are your thoughts about the kill switch? Let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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